What are your suggestions for a business like mine to succeed?
My business provides a service which I think is essential for businesses in any industry. And I'm not just saying that out of pride. It is in fact, true.
I build solutions, that save my clients time and money by increasing productivity & efficiency, and decreasing waste and cost.The biggest challenge I face is that most business people have no idea about the power of the technology they already own.
I can take trusted and widely used technology, and build on it to create systems and solutions to meet even the most challenging problems faced by SMEs all over the world.
Larger organisations usually have an army of people like me to call upon as and when required. SMEs do not. So now that I am trying to bring these kinds of services to SMEs, the fact they are unaware of the possibilities is the biggest challenge for me.
How would you overcome this if you were in my shoes?
I always simplify issues and work on simple way ...
1. I assume you already identity a huge market + already targeted a specific group.
2. convert your idea into ... key problems you identified -> how you solve it.
3. conceptualize your solution and try to form a solution model or product
4. pitch to your target customers (please be very specific - SME logistic companies for example)
5. record feedback. If people buy ... this means your solution works, else finetune it. - this way of testing is the most fundamental approach to you whether you are selling the correct solution or not.
The above is very straight forward, simple and clearly tell whether people buy your solutions or not.
I see people suggest sharpening your Elevator Pitch.
The Elevator Pitch Creator is a free online tool for doing just that.
Check out my profile for more details.
I suggest you start with educating the pool of target customers for free. Write in magazines and papers they read, blogs etc. You should try to create the image of somebody who knows and can help. Use own case studies and satisfied customers.
Do you have a simple business decision making flowchar template? It is easier to work with SME's if you can show a picture of how you can create value from existing systems .
I believe that you have identified the biggest challenge "they are unaware of the possibilities", so the obvious answer is sometimes best. Educate them about the possibilities so they become aware of it!
There are a million ways to do this but from my experience emailers and animated explanatory videos work well and are very cost efficient. Naturally, your sales teams needs to rock it when picking up the phone but if you add some case studies and numbers to those already strong sales points you mentioned (increasing productivity & efficiency, and decreasing waste and cost), I am sure you would get great results.
Ultimately though, you know your customers much better than any of us so what kind of communication your customers respond to is something you know best from past experience.
Wishing you success, money, and happiness,
Business Success Coach, Entrepreneur, Speaker
Hello Shail. I have worked for many years in this space. There are two things you can do to greatly increase your success and engagement rate. The first is to offer the client an exploration session to determine exactly where their greatest business pain exists.
Be particularly careful to explore based on where these problems area taking them. Another way of looking at it would be to say, "Here are your problems today. If left unchanged, they will develop into these bigger problems." Do not be judgemental or critical, the situation is what it is, but you can certainly magnify the eventualities of not making a change.
In part two, offer your prospects the vision of what their life will be like with the problems solved. Think beyond the obvious for your examples. If they no longer will be spending 20% of their time doing something nonproductive related to the problem, what will they use that time for? It had better be revenue development.
You positioning is based on the transformation you bring to them and secondly what you will enable for them Concentrate on those activities that generate increased revenue and margin for the client. Also make sure that whatever you propose is measurable. I use the term "as evidenced by." This leads to confidence from the prospect that you know what you're doing and you can measure the results. If you currently cannot do this, figure it out before you approach any new prospects.
Finally, be sure to charge a substantial fee. Prospects who have to seriously think about the investment, and associated return, are much more likely to follow through on your recommendations. Of course, you must be able to meet and exceed those expectations. Good luck.
Your challenge would be to completely understand the situational issues those in the SME's most likely to value your offer would have. What are the biggest mistakes they are making as a result of not understanding the power of the technology they own?
All your marketing collateral should answer those mistakes and the implications of not resolving them. Directed blogging that focuses on answering those problems would be a great long term solution to deliver the value they are missing out on and to build your profile. Short term, it would inform your pitch.
Greetings. I provide personal leadership and branding to many industries and work heavily within the software community. Competition is stiff and how you differentiate yourself is essential for securing future growth. I suggest you start with asking yourself the following questions.
1. How can you differentiate yourself?
2. How do you sell (outside of using logic) on an emotional level?
3. How do you create instant rapport and expand relationships with people you have never met before?
4. How do you expand relationships and loyalty with present clients to secure more business?
5. Sell first to the dangers your prospects are facing, rather than discussing how you can help them. Ask "If nothing changes; if your technology stays the same in the future, what would be the dangers your company will face?" or "If we're chatting in a year and you are doing business exactly the same way, what dangers do you believe you will be facing?" or "If your competition is investing in new technology to stay current and provide new capabilities, what dangers would you be concerned about if you didn't wish to make the investment?
Best of luck
The clue is in the question. YOU know that people need it. What you need to do is to talk to as many SMEs as possible in order to establish whether THEY think they need it.
Secondly, is there a clear cost/benefit case for your product or service?
Thirdly, you obviously target IT type people in the large organisations (people like you). Have you honed your proposition to the needs of SMEs that don;t have someone that talks IT speak!
For people to sell anything there is a need to fully understand their client. The SME is an entirely different beast to the large conglomerate.
Finally, don't fall into the trap of many technology skilled people that believe that technology is the answer to life, the world and the universe.
Power of communications, you have to tap, my friend. If you cannot do this, hire someone like me to do it for you.
This sounds like a marketing challenge. First, you need to define your customer -- it seems small businesses are more likely to take you on. Make a customer profile, describing their attributes. Define their pain points, how you can alleviate them, and how you add value to the business.
I would start with a strong web site and use LinkedIn to start to make a name for yourself. In addition, joining local business groups will expose you to other business owners. Once the word spreads about your ability to meet needs and improve results for client businesses, you will likely be very busy.
Please call on me if I can help more directly.
My recommendation is for you answer the 10 frequently asked questions and the 10 questions they SHOULD ask but don't.
Create 20 short videos and a have this transcribed.
Take the transcription and create a book or a report. Create a You Tube channel and upload a video a week.
Send the book or report to you ideal prospects.
Based on your question if SME's are not aware then you must create education videos etc to teach them.
Best of Luck,
You have to enable potential users of your service, skill and expertise to find you. Where do they look for what you do? Network hard, be the GoTo individual when SME's are in the market for what you offer.
If you chase them they will run away because they won't know/realise/understand why you are chasing them?! Why do large companies have an army of people like you but seemingly SME's don't get it? Do you know the answer to this question?
You say you can "create systems and solutions to meet even the most challenging problems faced by SMEs all over the world". Well what are these problems? Or are they in fact OPPORTUNITIES - that we are missing out on?! Can they deliver competitive advantage(s) to me?
Wow! Thank you all for your very helpful feedback and input.
I guess the best place for me to start in response is to provide a little more background and explanation of the services I offer. My area of expertise and qualification is Supply Chain and Operations Management. I have worked for many large and reputable firms in practically every area of Supply Chain, and discovered a long time ago that I have a natural affinity with technology and systems as well.
I was excited to begin work many years ago in the Inventory Dept of a major retail organisation here, expecting leading edge systems and state of the art technology. To my absolute horror, I discovered on my first day of training an archaic and ancient replenishment model that required an army of Inventory Controllers to run it. They would come into work each morning to stacks of paper on their desks which contained data from two separate ERP systems, and armed with their calculators, rulers, red pens and highlighters, they would all set about spending the entire day physically matching up two sets of numbers on each individual stock item, apply a replenishment calculation, produce a figure which they entered manually into a third system!
I declared very early on in the piece that I was amazed at such a thoroughly inefficient methodology, but was told in no uncertain terms that this is how they had been doing it for 30 years, and that is how i was to ensure it continued to be done. I was completing my masters degree in Supply Chain then as well, and my lecturers were horrified at this first hand insight into an organisation they otherwise had a lot of respect for. So, buoyed by the backing of academics in the field, I once again launched a volley towards management asking them to allow me to develop a system for them. They refused. The resistance was incredible. I was being shut down on all sides, and instead of being dismayed, I actually got a little bit fired up instead!
So, I ended up doing it anyway. I got to know the IT dept, and befriended the people who were the keepers of the data that went into those stacks of paper. I obtained digital source data from them, and started to design a solution. Using no more than an MS Excel spreadsheet, I used VBA programming to create a system that did everything that army of Controllers were doing, but faster and a whole lot more accurately. Once complete, and once I was convinced that I had something that would work, I went back into the fray. this time though, I didn't bother with my immediate superiors. I found ways to go above their heads, and managed to get people at higher levels who were actually interested in creating efficiencies and reducing costs to have a look.
Well, needless to say, that unleashed a bit of a storm within the organisation. At least now I knew for sure I wasn't going to be sacked, so then began a long series of meeting with my immediate superiors, who had by then been given orders to give me a hearing. The National Supply Chain Manager asked me if I realized how many people were going to lose their jobs because of my invention. My first response to him was to say "Imagine how good that's going to make you look!". My second response was to remind him he didn't need to sack anyone. He already had an attrocious attrition rate because let's face it, the job was mind-numbing. All he had to do was stop hiring people, and anyone else who was left over could easily be re-deployed to other areas.
So the trials began, and it wasn't long that I had concrete proof that the system was working. It was much more accurate, because rules were being applied consistently and without any human error. it was also much faster. It used to take seven Controllers a whole day (8 hours each) to process replenishment orders for one Distribution Centre, a total of 56 manhours per day. My system reduced that to a measly 2 hours per day, and one person to press a total of three buttons over that time!
So this is where my fascination with using existing technology to make amazing improvements began. In the jobs I occupied after that one, I developed and improved my programming skills and knowledge even further. The last job I had was with a very large agricultural producer who supplied the local market as well as a thriving export market as well. They were using SAP extensively throughout their business, but still noticed marked gaps in their systems, particularly in Supply Chain. Bit of a dream job for the likes of me, you would say! And so it was that within 4 months, I was able to devise a system still being used today, that reduced that organisation's slow moving and obsolete stock from a whopping $10M, down to a much more respectable $2M, where it has stayed ever since. That wasn't my only achievement there. There were several other major projects I worked on which included a fully functioning MRP system for an offshore production facility. The throughput for that plant was around 14k-20k tonnes per month, so it was very sizeable!
Anyway, I hope the above provides more of an idea of the kind of things I do, and the kinds of things that are possible. Since having gone out on my own, I have continued to work on projects for my ex-employer, but have also found new clients for whom I have done a lot of work as well.
So Patrick, in response to your valued advice, I absolutely see the benefits of everything you recommend, and you have actually re-affirmed a lot of my own thinking on this, and I will definitely be concentrating on blogging and publishing articles, which I think will be a great way to inform people about the possibilities staring them in the face every day!
I hope the above has gone some distance towards sharpening my pitch Todd, and I certainly take on board your advice as well here. I guess it boils down to having something right there in front of an SME decision maker when they are in need of a service. So publishing articles and answering questions in firums such as this one should be productive too, I guess.
Thank you too Julia for taking the time to respond with your advice. And yes, I do have examples of work done on my website, and I've also so far submitted one as a resource here which I am awaiting approval for at the moment. The example on my website aren't exhaustive, as I haven't been able to create material for all the projects I've completed yet. I agree that I need to come up with a way to communicate with my ideal clientelle in a way that does not trivialise what I do simply because it's all about using existing technology to build and deliver solutions.
I really like the idea of payment based on performance, to be honest Gavin. This is an idea I have been considering, and quite possibly need to explore further and create a strategy around.
And Karl, thank you for re-affirming the fact that communication is definitely the key here. I can make all the claims I like about what I can do, but the proof has to be in the pudding, so to speak!
Once again, thank you all for your input and feedback. And remember, if you or your clients ever need a technological solution, or could benefit from one without realising it, then you now know who to go to! :-)
Thank you all once again!
Seems to me you have answered your own question ", , , ,save my clients time and money by increasing productivity & efficiency, and decreasing waste and cost."
All SME owners understand ROI so the easy route is to quantify one or more of "increased productivity, increased throughput, decreased errors, and improved compliance" then describe your solution in terms of a timeline to break even on whatever costs you/the solution imposes on them.
As for " The biggest challenge I face is that most business people have no idea about the power of the technology they already own." - this is easy to understand, if they did have an idea they would be using it already.
There is lot of low-hanging fruit in the area of a culture shift that gets people using their own best practices, Existing hardware/new software can help, so there really is not much technology to worry about.
As for the introduction of more disruptive solutions (upgrading machines, replacing one technology with newer technology) this probably should come as a 2nd wave.
business is not about solutions but profits, focus on the people you do not need to convince and ho reatin your services, the enrgy you need to convert is like climbing a mountain, and then the frudge factorm Or if you are commited give them a 2 month trial and based on performance retroactive payment
Shail, it's difficult to answer this question without having more information about your business and your approach. I would ask if you have done the foundational work for your business - creating your story, finding clarity with what you do and who you do it for and crafting your ideal client profile; creating a compelling message to help them see what's possible and more. Do you have some products that you developed such as a checklist, a how to product, a webinar, etc. - anything that you can give them for free that will communicate what your business can do for them? I am known as The Youth Entrepreneur Empowerment Coach and I also coach adults and I find that the process is the same for both - you must have a message that speaks directly to your ideal client and you need to have the systems to support that message. Good luck.
One suggestion - work on your elevator pitch. So much of your advertising will be completed by word of mouth, particularly if your prospective clients are not looking for the service you provide.
Say 100 read the question you just wrote. How many of those 100 people are going to run to an SME decision-maker they know and tell them to go contact Shail for improving their technology? How many of those 100 people will understand enough about what you do that, when they hear an SME decision-maker verbalize a problem you can solve, will suggest that decision-maker contact you? And I am a person that would do that, not to help you, but to help friends/clients find a solution to their problem.
Reading your question, I don't understand enough about what you do or what problems you solve to be one of those people that helps drive business to you. I think you can sharpen your pitch.
Won't claim this is a 'total' solution for you, though in today's connected world I would probably start with a few things:
1) talk to as many SMEs as possible to get a feeling for the most common challenges they run in to and common technologies/applications they use (if you don't have that perspective already)
2) start a blog describing how the power of technology can solve the challenges
3) everybody is connected somewhere, SMEs have less time, so there's a great change you can find a few Communities with reasonable critical mass.
4) become a member and publish articles referring to your blog posts.